TABRIZ, THE COSMOPOLITAN
“ In Tauris, I didn’t see so many magnificent houses or palaces; but there are as many pretty bazaars as any place in Asia; and it is wonderful to admire their vast lengths and breadths, the beautiful domes and arches with which they are covered, the grand people by whom they are frequented daily and the quality of merchandise which graces them”
Jean Chardin (17th century)
Blue Mosque, 1465
The exact age of the city is not known but it was perhaps founded during the Sassanid era (3rd-7th century), or even earlier, but its documented history began after the Arabian conquest. Prosperous thanks to commerce, Tabriz was made the capital by the Mongol, Ghazan Khan in 1925. He built glorious monuments which are today in ruins. And so the city became a commercial centre in Iran, frequented by Italian merchants who used it to relay their goods throughout Asia. Tabriz lost its importance under the Timurids, and then became the capital of the “Black Sheep” Turks. One of the latter’s rulers built the city’s renowned crown-jewel, the “Blue Mosque “(15th century)
House of the Constitution, 19th century
The Safavids chose the city as its first capital and Shah Ismail the 1st enforced Shi’ism. In the 16th century, the city was first occupied by the Ottomans, who pillaged its riches. They also exported its artists to Istanbul where they established Persian culture in that city. Until the 18th century, and despite a peace treaty signed in 1639, the city continued to be prey to intermittent conflict between the Persians and the Turks. In 1722, it was to receive the Safavid, Tahmasp the 2nd, chased from Isfahan by the Afghans. He was crowned sovereign and then deposed ten years later by Nader Shah who occupied the city in 1729 and retook it for good from the Ottomans. The residence of the heirs to the throne under the Qajars (19th century), it became a victim of the rivalry between the Persians and the Russians, who occupied it from 1827-28. A commercial crossroads on the route from the Black Sea, it found new prosperity with the opening up of Russia and the Ottoman Empire. A cosmopolitan city with a mixture of Armenians, Turks, Persians and Russians, it was, in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, a centre for commerce, culture and dynamic spirituality. It would inaugurate the first printing works in the 19th century, even before Tehran, and was the home of the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1906.
Established in 1860, the first telephone lines were to link Tabriz to Tehran. In 1978, the city became a theatre of murderous riots which marked a turning point in the over-throwing of the regime of the Shah. It is today a university and industrial city which houses the only university of Islamic art in the country. With a unique atmosphere, the cosmopolitan city of Tabriz is a melting pot of Persian, Turkish, Russian and Caucasian cultures. It is the dynamic capital of a region of magnificent landscapes, rich in monuments, cultural traditions and remarkable artisans.
The Blue Mosque ; bazaar ; Elgoli Park ; “fortress”; Museum of Azerbaijan ; Koran Museum ; Traditional houses (House of the Constitution, Sandjesh Museum, Behnam House) ; Borough of Tabriz
Sites registered in the UNESCO world heritage list: the Bazaar (2010)
One and a half days are sufficient to see the main monuments. A second day would allow an excursion the the Armenian monastery of Jolfa and the troglodyte village of Kandovan.
Armenian monastery of Saint Stephanos, Djolfa, north of Tabriz